Today, many parents are faced with the extremely difficult task of ending their relationship, while continuing to co-parent with an ex. Simultaneously navigating a break-up, while maintaining good communication and cooperation around caring for your children can sometimes feel impossible, and is a very delicate balance.
The stereotype of divorced, blended or single parent families has often been one of conflict, anger, resentment and unhappiness. However, it is possible to create a harmonious environment, even with the most difficult ex.
In my work with individuals, couples and families on creating effective co-parenting plans, I have identified a few things to keep in mind….
What is going on behind the scenes? In any break-up, there are very strong feelings, ranging anywhere from anger to sadness to relief. It is very important to talk about, explore and deal with those feelings, so that they don’t get “played out” in a negative relationship with your ex.
You have more control than you think. You cannot control your ex, but you can control what triggers you and how you react. When you become aware of what you are feeling and why, you can choose how to respond, rather than just automatically reacting. This is empowering and leads to more self- respect, confidence and patience, which will benefit any relationship.
Let the kids be kids. It is important for children to be raised with security, confidence, trust and consistency. The best way to create this in separate homes is by not mingling your kids into your negative feelings or anger towards your ex. While it is not always easy, creating a safe place for your children, where they don’t feel they have to choose sides or take care of you, will allow them to thrive.
Be a palm tree. While it is important to have a general set of “policies and procedures” in place when co-parenting, you and your ex will not always agree on everything. In reality, that would be the case even if you were still together. I always say, “be a palm tree” – securely planted, but able to bend and sway with the wind without breaking. Being flexible releases tension and takes the pressure off of interactions with your ex. Find a balance that works for you, it is trial and error, so be patient with yourself.
Perfection is not the goal. Like any relationship, co-parenting will have its good and bad days. Don’t be too hard on yourself, or your ex. And, don’t let one bad day, spiral into bad weeks and months. Your kids will benefit from seeing you successfully navigate the hard times.
Therapy is a great way to work through the adjustment to co-parenting and create a plan that works for your family. I work with individuals, with parents together or with the whole family. If you would like help to create a cooperative, calm and happy co-parenting situation, learn more about how we can work together at www.therapywithstephanie.com.
Author: Stephanie Macadaan
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. I love working with couples and individuals to find strength, growth and empowerment through their struggles and challenges.